Monday, May 16, 2016

Encouraging Pentecost on Pentecost Sunday (What a novel idea!)

The setting:

Several weeks ago I was invited by the rector of light of Christ Anglican Church, in Marietta, Georgia, to preach on Pentecost Sunday. I was delighted to accept. As a charismatic Anglican, Pentecost is my favorite feast day, and preaching Pentecost is my favorite theme.

I have had a long association with the folks at Light of Christ. I was with them as part of St. Jude’s Episcopal Church in the 1990s.  At that time, under its rector, Frank Baltz, St Jude’s was the leading charismatic church in the diocese of Atlanta, and was the host church of charismatic seminars and revivals with world renowned speakers such as Rita Bennett and Vinson Synan.

Unfortunately the collapse of the Episcopal Church into theological liberalism and scriptural disobedience forced a group of us from St. Jude’s to separate back, and we formed Light of Christ Anglican Church under the authority of the (orthodox) Bishop of Bolivia, Frank Lyons. Several years later Light of Christ entered officially into the Anglican Church of North America.  For years I served as that Church’s Hispanic pastor, until I retired from that ministry in 2010.

So celebrating and preaching among old friends was a treat. But I determined that I would not just preach about Pentecost, but arrange the service in every way to allow the Holy Spirit to have a mini-Pentecost in the service.

Why are these folks all in Red? Are they communist?

The preparation:

To that effect I mobilized my Face Book friends to pray for the service, and I focused on the scriptures and sermon.  The lectionary reading for Pentecost Sunday were all great, but I deleted the suggested Psalm and substituted a reading from Numbers 11:24-29 for further focus.  This scripture ends with Moses expressing God’s yearnings:

 “ But Moses replied, “Are you jealous for my sake? I wish that all the Lord’s people were prophets and that the Lord would put his Spirit on them!”
The Acts 2 reading pictures the dramatic events that happened in Jerusalem on Pentecost Sunday, and it remained, but I shifted the reading from I Corinthians to 14:1-5, which defined prophecy. Lastly, the Gospel reading John 14:8-17, 25-27, was about the presence of the Holy Spirit in the Church after Jesus ascension. 

Yours truly preaching. If the thought occurs to you that I look somewhat like Gomer Simpson, let me assure you that is a demonic thought and you need deliverance! 

The sermon:

The flow of the Bible readings practically preached themselves. They showed that God wanted his people to have the gift of prophecy from the very beginning of His selection of the Jews as the people of God. Acts 2 shows that intention began to be a real possibility for the whole church, and 1 Corinthians 14 describes how that prophetic gift should work out. Lastly, John 14 lays out the consequences of the people of God living in the Spirit of Christ.

After expounding this, I turned briefly to some of the historical issues involved in the modern Pentecostal and charismatic movements. I explained that the gift that Perter manifested in Acts 2, when his speech was understood simultaneously by different hearers in their native tongues, is the gift of xenololia, and has been recorded by some missionaries, but is a rare gift. Charles Parham, the “father” of modern Pentecostalism believed that this gift would enable all Spirit-filled missionaries to go overseas and preach without any language training. Not so. It took the early Pentecostal movement only a little while to realize that the normal gift of tongues was described by Paul in 1 Cor 12 and 14, and it was a prayer language for intercession and edification. [1]

I went on to speak about the physical phenomenon of revival, that is of how the energies the Holy Spirit interact with mans’ bodies in various ways. The case described in Acts two, was of a seeming drunkenness. This occurs today in some revivals, and I recently saw it at a small Pentecostal church where the preachers was under a special anointing and had trouble holding on the pulpit.
The last point I elucidated was that in Paul’s view (and God’s) prophecy was more important than tongues. Tongues unfortunately became the symbolic point of discussion for the early Pentecostals with their doctrine that to be really filled with the Spirit one had to speak in tongues. Contemporary charismatics have a more biblically balanced view, I believe, that tongues in only one of the gifts, and not all receive it.

I turned then to the current dismal situation of the Charismatic Renewal in the United States. The purely Pentecostal denominations continue to grow rapidly, but the classical charismatic grouping, such as the Catholic Charismatics and the Lutheran Charismatics have drastically declined since the 1990s. (To the contrary, the Catholic charismatic movement is doing very well in the Third World.) I cited several reasons for this decline, as in the wave of scandals of the TV Evangelists and the extreme of the Word of Faith teachings – including the recent outrageous request by Pastor Creflo Dollar for a $68,000,000 jet.

In any case, the Anglican charismatics are generally “alive but not kicking” – or at least not kicking strongly. There needs to be another wave of revival to re-energize the Anglican charismatics. I suggested we start at Light of Christ with a “refreshing” of the gifts of the spirit as suggested in 2 Tim 1:6:
For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands.
Praying for a refreshment and renewal:

In reading about the life and ministry of Mrs. Agnes Sanford I saw she had a crisis of tiredness and fatigue. God provided a providential solution. She went (1953) to a planned healing mission in Tucson Arizona, but when she got there it had been canceled. However, she met  with two other local Christian women in the healing ministry.  They all had the same fatigue problem. They were worn out in their efforts to bring the healing ministry to the mainline churches. This was the era when the awful theology of cessationism was at its peak. 

The ladies prayed for direction from the Lord, and all received a word to pray for the “Holy Ghost.”  They were not charismatic at the time, and found this strange, but did so in obedience. Two on one, two on one, two on one, they all prayed for each other for the Holy Ghost.  It was a moment of Pentecost for all of them. They were refreshed and ultimately, after some discussion they understood the event as a baptism in the Spirit. Agnes ultimately received the gift of tongues when she returned to Tucson a year later. [2]

Back to Light of Christ. Immediately after the sermon, I directed the congregation to do an exercise repeating Agnes Sanford’ experience in Tucson. In groups of three or four, everyone laid hands on one another and prayed for a renewal and refreshment  of the gifts of the Spirit. It was a wonderful sight to see. One and African American lady, and first time visitor to light of Christ, experienced a completed healing of a serious medical condition. Everybody experienced a spirit of refreshment and joy.

Now truthfully, there were no dramatic physical manifestation as I was secretly hoping.  But this is normal to mature Spirit-filled Christians. That is, Christians new to Pentecostalism, and who have never had hands laid on them for the giftings of the Spirit, are especially subject to “falling” (resting in the Spirit). Their nervous systems have to be reset and changed by the Lord. But this is not necessary to someone who has been a charismatic for years.

I am looking forward to reports of new life and ministry at Light of Christ the next time I visit.


The noted Pentecostal scholar Dr. Jon Ruthven wrote a very positive review of my latest book, Agnes Sanford and Her Companions: The Assault on Cessationism and the Coming of the Charismatic Renewal. You can access it HERE.

The book may be purchased on Amazon, either print or inexpensive Kindle HERE You can purchase the print version at a discount from the publisher HERE

My wife has written a funny and inspiring story of how she transited from a cessionist and Baptist to a Spirit-filled Believer. The book has many stories of our three decades of ministry together.  It may be purchased HERE.

Watching God Work: The Stuff of Miracles by [DeArteaga, Carolyn Koontz]

[1]For a summary description of the early Pentecostal movement see ,y posting: “A Charismatic Perspective on the Origins of Pentecostalism,” posted: April 22, 2015.
[2]For a full description of this event, see my new book on Mrs. Sanford, Agnes Sanford and Her Companions: The Assault on Cessationism and the Coming of the Charismatic Renewal (Eugene: Wipf & Stock, 2015) chapter 18, “Theologian to the Charismatic Renewal.”

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